Dick Willebrandts

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Leader of one of Europe's finest big bands during World War II, the Dutch pianist Dick Willebrandts' career declined after the war, due mostly to the possibly unfair notion that he had willingly collaborated…
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Leader of one of Europe's finest big bands during World War II, the Dutch pianist Dick Willebrandts' career declined after the war, due mostly to the possibly unfair notion that he had willingly collaborated with his country's Nazi occupiers. Willebrandts began playing piano as a child. He played in Copenhagen as a teenager, then co-led a band with his brother Philip from 1929-1934. He worked with Jack & Louis de Vries' Internationals from 1935-1937, with AVRO Dansorkest from 1937-1940, and served as an accompanist to various radio stars until 1942, when a Rotterdam businessman put up the money for him to form a big band. Willebrandts hired some of Holland's best dance band musicians and built what was reportedly an outstanding orchestra. The band recorded for Decca and played for radio during the war. From 1943, they were allegedly forced to broadcast programs into Britain on German-controlled radio; however, unlike similar work by Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels' infamous project Charlie & His Orchestra, Willebrandts' band played straight versions Anglo-American dance music, without anti-semitic or other propaganda lyrics. Germany's declining fortunes caused the group to disband in 1944, and Willebrandts would never again lead a big band. After the Netherlands' liberation he played in radio orchestras and as a soloist. From the late '50s, he led a string group; he also worked with trombonist Pi Scheffer's OK Wobblers, a Dixieland band. Willebrandts suffered a heart attack in 1963 and retired from music.